Johan podiums and PSRX VW Sweden extend championship lead
Just like the dizzying highs and dusty lows surrounding the scenic Montalegre Circuit - where round two of the 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy played out - the weekend’s final results divided the paddock and M-Claw backed drivers in half.
While young gun Johan Kristoffersson hauled-in the silverware and sprayed the champagne; celebrating a third place podium, team-mate and PSRX Volkswagen Sweden racer Petter Solberg’s ambitions of a Portugal podium ended in the gravel-trap. A slow puncture in the weekend’s grand final, deflated Petter’s epic charge leaving him in sixth position.
Despite Johan’s podium, the split result wasn’t what the PSRX Volkswagen duo had hoped for. Charging through Q1 & Q2 on Saturday, Johan and Petter posted first and second overall on the end of day standings, with Johan nailing maximum points, and the fastest lap of the day.
The pair can however take some solace in the weekend’s final result, as well as the pace displayed from their 600bhp Polo Supercars. With improved starts and higher cornering speeds - pointing to big things to come at the championship’s next round in Germany. Not just that but PSRX Volkswagen Sweden also nose nine-points clear into the lead of the Teams’ Championship.
Using their 2017-spec Ford Focus RS RX’s to full effect, the pair gritted through the weekend’s issues to snag two surprise spots in the weekend’s semi-finals. Lining up for the finals on Sunday under the beating Portuguese sun, and in-front of the capacity 16,000-strong crowds was certainly a welcome change from the end of day-one standings which placed Ken in 15th and Andreas in 20th overall.
A heat win for Andreas in Q4, as well as a hard-fought ninth and fourth was enough to break in to the semis. Unfortunately that’s where the journey ended for the Ford Performance powered duo, with Ken being eliminated from Semi Final one following a tough battle with Kevin Hansen. While Andreas was forced out of semi final two after being cruelly shunted by Toomas Heikkinen and Janis Baumanis.
Check out the full results from the 2017 World RX of Portugal here, and scroll down for exclusive reaction from our athletes. Next up is the World RX of Hockenheim in Germany on the 5th – 7th May.
Johan Kristoffersson – PSRX Volkswagen World RX Team Sweden – 3rd:
“The first day here in Portugal was really as good as it gets, and to be honest today [Sunday] was looking to be the same. Warm up was good and then in Q3 we unfortunately missed the joker lap, which was a misunderstanding in the Spotters Tower. Then in Q4 we were out early just after the track had been watered. It’s been real rollercoaster of a weekend though; we’ve improved the car since Barcelona, especially with the launch. I grabbed 23 championship points this weekend – 7 clear of a perfect score, so that’s great! We are also in the lead in the Teams’ Championship, which is very important. It’s a great shame that Petter had a slow puncture in the final, he’s been very fast all weekend, and for sure we should have been on the podium together.”
Petter Solberg – PSRX Volkswagen World RX Team Sweden – 6th:
“My plan was to get away from the line as quickly as possible. We had the speed all weekend and the plan was for Johan to stay behind me in the beginning of the race. But then I picked up a slow puncture on the left-rear and I just wanted to get out on the straight to let Johan past me. It came at the worst possible moment; I slowed him down and there was nothing I could do. That’s tough, but these things can happen – punctures are part of our sport. Putting that behind us, I’m so happy with the way things are moving forward with the team and to be leading the championship is fantastic when you consider where we were just before the start of the year! I must say it’s very good for me to have Johan alongside me in the team – he did a great job of safeguarding our position today (Sunday). I am learning stuff from him and I hope I am able to teach him the odd thing as well! This is only good for PSRX Volkswagen Sweden.”
Andreas Bakkerud – Hoonigan Racing Division – 10th:
“Yesterday I felt comfortable and in shape; I did a great Q1 – but missed the joker, and then did a great Q2 but had a puncture. We had radio communications failure between the Spotter's Tower and then car in Q1. I think the elevation changes in the track, altitude, and the high barriers mess around with the signal. Of course I never give up over a weekend, but experience told me we were in a pretty tough spot at the end of day one. Sunday went much better – and we somehow managed to get both cars into the semis, which felt like a big victory inside the team. I did all I could, I bogged down a little in the launch in the semi final but still recovered at the end of the straight. I went for a gap and got pushed by Toomas Heikkinen into Janis Baumanis, which broke my left rear left suspension, and I had to retire. You know most of the time I don’t believe in bad luck – I believe you create your own [luck] – but this weekend was definitely very very tough, and it seemed like whatever we did we got dealt a bad hand. This is only our 14th event in the World Championship and we’ve already proved we have the speed; so we’ll be back in Hockenheim. I’m looking forward to it already.”
Ken Block – Hoonigan Racing Division – 11th:
“You know, it’s just been an incredibly tough weekend. There isn’t a huge amount to say beyond that. We didn’t have a good day one, and then battled back to get both cars in the semis. When you have a bad first heat, you are behind the curve on a race weekend, and it takes a lot to get out of that. For example in Q1 I had a good launch, got into the joker, but then had nowhere to go, which ultimately meant the finish wasn’t as good as it could have been. That meant that in Q2 – even though I won it – my race time was slower because it was an earlier race, and the track was getting faster throughout the weekend. That’s part of the breakthrough today because we got ahead in Q3 on a clean track and were able to push for a better result in Q4. Like I said the story is just a bad weekend – we were able to do well when the conditions improved. The track is really fun – it’s been better to drive on this second visit. Overtaking is still very tough here. Now I’m focused on looking ahead to Hockenheim, we had a solid result there so I’m looking forward to heading back!”